Ebola Containment Issues, Israel Hamas Talks Deteriorate, U.S. Continues its Strike on Iraq and Ukrainian Rebels Open to Ceasefire

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According to Guinea news, in West Africa, the afflicted nation announced Saturday its closing its borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia in order to halt the influx of infected people in and out of the country, AOL reports, International response to Ebola: Travel bans, funding. Al Jazeera quotes the country’ heat minister as saying: “We have provisionally closed the frontier between Guinea and Sierra Leone because of all the news that we have received from there recently.” The health minister most likely is referring to the World Health Organization’s call for international aid as the Ebola outbreak has become an “extraordinary event:” “The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems in the currently affected and most at-risk countries.” Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone have all declared a state of emergency following the Ebola outbreak putting limits on civil liberties and closing public institutions like schools. On Saturday, riot police had to break up an demonstration blocking Liberia’s busiest highway as angry crowds protested the government’s delays in removing the Ebola victims bodies, Jonathon Paye-Layleh reports, Liberia Protesters Demand Govt Pick Up Ebola Bodies. The growing unease in Liberia raised the specter of social unrest as almost 300 people have died from the disease in Liberia. Residents say that the government has yet to pick up the bodies of the dead by the roadside along the central town of Weala, 50 miles from Monrovia the capital, which have been sitting there for two day. The government has ordered all victims be cremated amid resistance to neighborhood burials for fear of contamination. Information Minister Lewis Brown warned Saturday on state radio: “Security people are on their way to put things under control. We don’t want people taking the law into their own hands.” So far, 961 people have died, according to figures released Friday by the U.N. Heath agency. The situation in Liberia has been describes as “catastrophic” by the Doctors Without Borders Charity. Lindis Hurum. the group’s emergency coordinator, said: “There are reports of dead bodies lying in streets and houses.” In addition, 40 health care workers in Liberia have contracted Ebola in recent weeks, while most city hospitals are closed, Hurum reports. On Saturday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met with health workers at City Hall in Monrovia. “The president wants to express the collective gratitude of the entire nation to our health care workers who have continued to make tremendous sacrifices for this country and people,” Brown said. Liberia has launched “Operation White Shield” where soldiers are deployed in different locations and at checkpoints outside the capital to discourage residents’ movements, part of Sirleaf’s emergency measures to fight the disease.

On Sunday, back in the Middle East, Palestinian negotiators threatened to quit Egypt brokered truce talks unless Israeli negotiators return to Cairo, Mohammed Daraghmeh and Karin Laub report, Palestinians to quit Gaza talks if Israel no-show. Israeli officials said their negotiators will return when Gaza rocket fire stops. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday: “Israel will not negotiate under fire.” As talks have stalled, Israel responded to rocket fire from Gaza with 20 airstrikes killing three Palestinians, according to Gaza officials. Since Friday following the truce expiration, smaller Gaza militant groups hot Hamas have fired rockets and mortar shells at Israel and on Sunday fired two more. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said: “If Hamas thinks it has worn us down, it is wrong. We will return to the table only after an end to the fire. … We are not intending to compromise.” On Sunday, Palestinian negotiators vented frustrations about a lack of progress and the Israeli team’s absence. Azzam al-Ahmad, the delegation head f and confidant of Abbas, said: “If it is proven to us that the Israeli delegation is setting conditions for its return to Cairo, we will not accept any condition for the continuation of the talks.” Late Saturday, Palestinian negotiation Bassam Salhi representing a small PLO faction said the team met with Egyptian mediators who are in touch with Israeli officials and hope to make progress. However, he Salhi said: “We told the Egyptians that if the Israelis are not coming and if there is no significant development, we are leaving today.” Israel has targeted 5,00 sites so far, according to the army, while Gaza militants have fired 3,000 into Israel. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Israel launched 30 aerial attacks in Gaza killing five Palestinians and militants fired rockets at Israel as the conflict entered its second month and defied international efforts for a peaceful resolution by extending the ceasefire. Nidal al-Mughrabi and Allyn Fisher-Ilan report, Israel-Gaza Violence Resumes, Defying Ceasefire Efforts, the Israeli military said since midnight it has attacked 30 sites in Gaza without specifying targets and Gaza militants, since the 72 hour ceasefire ended Friday, have fired more than 65 rockets at Israel injuring two Israelis by mortar on Friday. Heavy civilian causalities and destruction during Israel’s offensive in packed residential areas of Gaza has garnered international attention over the past month. The White House urged both sides to do what theyt can to preserve civilians after failure to extend the ceasefire with Spokesman John Earnest saying Friday “the United States is very concerned” about the renewed violence. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the parties “not to resort to further military action that can only exacerbate the already appalling humanitarian situation in Gaza”. At a rally in South Africa, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu accused Israel of behaving like a “barbaric bully” in Gaza.

Meanwhile in Iraq, U.S. officials confirmed on Friday that the Iraqi government provided Peshmerga fighters with a plane load of ammunition, according to Missy Ryan, Iraq Arms Kurds Against ISIS. The officials said Iraqi security forces flew to Abril, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, with small arms ammunition in a move that American officials hope helps the fighters keep militants from the Islamic State at by. Under conditions of anonymity, the officials said: “Developments over the last few days have refocused the issue, and we’ve seen unprecedented cooperation between Baghdad and Arbil in terms of going after (the Islamic State), not only in terms of conversation but in terms of actual support.” As Islamic State fighters advanced earlier this week, Maliki ordered his air force for the first time to back Kurdish forces in their fight against militants marking a significant step in a country where in recent years Peshmerga and Iraqi forces under the command of Baghdad would have fought each other rather than cooperate. The Obama administration working with the Iraqi government, the official said, to ensure additional requests for the Kurdistan Regional Government are met. Vivian Salama and Bram Janssen reports, Iraq Says U.S. Airstrikes Have Been Effective Against Islamic State, President Barack Obama announce on Saturday that the U.S. military return to Iraq is to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic State militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border. In addition, Obama said it was a long term project and cannot succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad to keep the country from breaking apart. U.S.plans and drones launched four airstrikes on Islamic State forces Saturday, while they fired n Yazidi civilians taking shelter in the Sinjar mountains, U.S. Central Command reports. It was the third round of strikes against Islamic State forces by the U.S. military since being authorized by Obama Thursday allowing for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees in the Sinjar area. A delayed response from Baghdad left Kurdish forces unable to fight off the Islamic State militants causing many Yazidi refugees to seek shelter in the mountains. UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told the Associated Press Saturday that at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, while British officials estimate Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people are trapped on the mountain. Juan Mohammad, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told AP more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border. Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited til Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighter to help contain the Islamic State militants. Iraqi Foreign Minster Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, said: “Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains — and have been very effective.” Many of America’s allies support the intervention since the Yazidis plight received so much international attention. Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form. During his Sunday address, Pope Francis expressed outrage at the violence aimed at the religious minority in Iraq who include fleeing children dying of thirst and said he is sending Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Vatican’s ambassador in Baghdad during the Iraqi war, to Iraq Monday to show solidarity with Christians, the Associated Press reports, Pope expresses outrage at violence in Iraq.

As the Middle East struggles with containing and resolving their conflicts, Ukrainians rebels are ready to agree to a ceasefire to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe”, according to the insurgents’ new leader on Saturday as conditions worsen in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, Yuras Karmanau reports, Ukraine rebel leader: We are open to a cease-fire. Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the so called prime minister of the Donetsk separatists, said in a statement posed on the rebel website: “We are prepared to stop firing to bar the spread of the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in Donbass (eastern Ukraine).” Russia, who the Kiev governments and Western countries allege is supporting the rebels. has called repeatedly for humanitarian missions into eastern Ukraine, but Kiev and thr West believe it will allow Russian forces into the region as supposedly 20,000 troops are waiting across the border. Late Saturday, in a statement from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine is prepared to accept humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine, but aid must come without military accompaniment, pass through border checkpoints controlled by the Ukrainian government and the mission must be international. Poroshenko spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss German participation in such a mission, while in Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama and Merkel agreed that any Russian intervention in Ukraine was unacceptable and violated international law. Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky told the Associate Press: “The situation is getting worse with every hour.” On Saturday, shelling hit 30 apartment blocks killing one person and wounding 18 adding about 2,000 residential building without power. A 47 year old resident of Donetsk, Dmistry Andronov: “We’re afraid of the Ukrainian army, which is firing on the city, and of the rebels of the Donetsk People’s Republic, who are robbing and killing civilians.” Zakharchenko’s statement came after the rebels’ top commander said Ukrainian forces has seized a key town, Krasnyi Luch, cutting Donetsk and nearby territory off from the rest of the rebel held east. Novorossiya, or “New Russia,” is a term widely used by the rebels for the eastern area that seeks independence from the government in Kiev. Concerns about a possible humanitarian catastrophe in the rebel held second largest city of Luhansk where fighting has been heavy and prolonged. Russians news agencies quote Luhansk authorities on Saturday saying that the city has been without power and water for a week and most stores are closed. Obama ans British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke via phone Saturday about Ukraine and in a statement from Cameron’s office said: “Both expressed grave concern about reports that Russian military vehicles have crossed the border into Ukraine and that Russian armed forces are exercising for a ‘humanitarian intervention’. (Both) are absolutely clear that such a so-called humanitarian mission would be unjustified and illegal.” The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was working to alleviate the crisis in eastern Ukraine, but warned it “will be taken in strict adherence to our fundamental working principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told U.S. Vice President Joe Biden via phone about his communications with the Red Cross and efforts to distribute humanitarian aid. In a statement from the White House, Biden and Poroshenko agreed that if “Russia were serious about improving the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine,” it had to immediately stop shelling Ukrainian troops, release Ukrainian hostages being held inside Russia and cease providing weapons to pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

Israel Ignores Any Talks of a Ceasefire, While Other Bloody Civil War continues and Putin Talks Ukraine with Obama

The short video above posted by several news outlets on YouTube sums up the human tragedy that is the Palestinian Israeli conflict and for that matter tells of the toll such violence takes on people who have to see it every day. As Charlotte Alfred explains the incident, UN Official Chris Gunness Breaks Down On Air After School Bombing, the breakdown happened on camera with Al Jazeera Arabic on Wednesday of last week when UN official Chris Gunness could not contain his grief after a U.N. run school sheltering 3,000 Palestinians was shelled. Gunness, spokesman for the UN Agency for Palestinians Refugees (UNRWA), told Al Jazeera Arabic from Jerusalem: “The rights of Palestinians, and even their children, are wholesale denied… and it’s appalling.” Soon after the interviewer thanked him appearing, Gunness broke down and wept. Gaza’s Ministry of Health said 17 people died and 90 were wounded by the school shelling, while the Israeli military spokesman told the New York Times that Israeli troops did not target the UN facility, but did respond to militants firing near the school in Jabaliya refugee camp. According to Alfred, in an official statement last Wednesday, the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Kranhenbuhl wrote: “Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”

Meanwhile on Friday, President Barack Obama during a White House briefing addressed the situation in Israel. Obama again voiced his support for Israeli’s right to defend itself, while condemning Hamas and Palestinian militants after a ceasefire unraveled and calling for the release of a captive Israeli soldier. Paige Lavender reports, Obama Calls For Unconditional Release Of Captured Israeli Soldier, Obama said: “I think it’s important to note that we have, and I have, unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third almost minutes after a cease-fire had been announced. I want to make sure that they are listening. If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that solider needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible.” In addition, the U.S. will continue to work on a ceasefire deal even though Friday’s violation will make it difficult since the ceasefire deal brokered by the U.N. and U.S. only lasted two hours.

Back in Israel, on Saturday, Israel launched dozens of airstrikes in southern Gaza as part of a large scale search fro a captive Israeli soldier, Karin Laub and Hamza Hendawi report, Israel pounds Gaza as it searches for soldier. At least 35 Palestinians were killed in and around the city of Rafah where the bombardment and shelling took place forcing the area’s main hospital to evacuate, according to a Palestinians health official. The Israeli military said the soldier was grabbed in a Hamas ambush about an hour after the ceasefire started on Friday morning causing international condemnation and calls for immediate release by President Barack Obama and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. The Hamas military wing in a statement on its website said it was “not aware until this moment of a missing soldier or his whereabouts or the circumstances of his disappearance.” Israel and Hams accuse each other of violating the humanitarian pause. more than 1,650 Palestinians most civilians have been killed and 8,000 wounded, according to health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians. al-Kidra added that since Friday morning more than 100 Palestinians were killed in the Rafah area including 35 on Saturday. The police operations room reported 77 airstrikes on the area and heavy shelling. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, blamed Hamas for violating the ceasefire and demanded the release of Goldin, the 23 year old captured Israeli solider. In a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, Netanyahu told Secretary of State John Kerry via phone that the Palestinian militants had violated the ceasefire and attack Israeli solder after 9am: “Israel will take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens.” Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hams’ deputy leader, denied Hamas violated the truce telling Al-Arabiya news channel from Cairo that the movement’s military wing carried out no operations after 8 am. In a statement to reporters outside his home, Goldin’s father said: “We want to support the military in the fighting against Hamas in Gaza. We are sure the military will not stop before it turns over every stone in Gaza and returns Hadar home safe and sound.”

As for now, Israeli officials and media reports on Saturday said Israel won’t participate in cease fire talks with Hamas and will scale back its 26 day military operation in Gaza on its own terms. Ian Deitch and Ibrahim Barzak report, Israel signals scaling back Gaza war on its terms, cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel will not send a delegation to truce talks in Cairo, according to Israel’s Channel 10, alleging that Hamas has repeatedly violated ceasefire deals and this “leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point speaking” about any deal. Under conditions of anonymity, an Israeli official told The Associated Press that troops will finish demolishing tunnels under the Gaza Israel border since they are close to completing their mission. Referring to Friday’s 72 hour truce, Steinitz said: “We are currently not sending any representative to Cairo because we agreed to several cease-fires and the Egyptian proposal and time after time, and the last time was yesterday. That leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point in speaking about an agreement or a cease-fire because we have tried it too many times.” The Israeli officials said the army announced that the town of Beit Lahiya, where previous fighting took place and now is safe for residence to return, is “a signal that things are pretty much being wrapped up.” In addition, on Saturday, Israeli troops and tanks began to redeploy away from the area east of the south central Gaza town of Khan Younis to the border with Israel, according to residents and police officials. One resident, Assad Ghanam said of the Israel army that: “We are afraid to go back, simply because we cannot trust them. My uncle and his wife went back to the area to feed their chickens and animals after an earlier cease-fire. They both got killed.” Elsewhere in Gaza, Palestinian officials on Saturday reported more than 150 Israeli airstrikes and heavy shelling continued along the border areas. The Israeli military said 200 targets were hit over 24 hours, while Gaza militants fired 74 rockets at Israel since midnight and seven were intercepted by Israel’s rocket defense system.

Following the collapse of a ceasefire deal in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the White House not to force a ceasefire with Hamas on Israel advising the Obama administration “not to ever second guess me again” on the matter, according to sources familiar with conversation between Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials including Secretary of State John Kerry. The condemnation of Hamas by Obama came as top Israeli officials questioned the ceasefire efforts accusing the U.S. and United Nations of being naive to Hamas adhering to the terms, Matthew Lee reports, Netanyahu Tells U.S. ‘Not To Ever Second Guess Me Again’ On Hamas. Obama told reporters that until the captive’s release, a cease fire deal could be difficult: “If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible. It’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment.” After the latest truce was violated, an Israeli official said the Netanyahu government viewed both Hams and Qatar as violating the commitment given to the U.S. and the U.N. and expected the international community to take practical steps as part of a strong and swift response especially regarding the captive soldier’s return. IN a phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” and Washington should trust his judgement regarding Hamas. In addition, Netanyahu expects the U.S. and other countries full support in Israel’s offensive in Gazas, according to people familiar with the call, who spoke under conditions of anonymity.

While the world focuses on the Ukraine Crisis and the Israeli Palestine Conflict with their rising death tolls, other conflicts with massive death tolls have been largely ignored. Sophia Jones reports, While The World Watched Gaza Crumble, Syria Had One Of Its Bloodiest Weeks Yet, at least 1,496 Palestinians have been killed and more than 60 Israelis have been killed, while in Ukraine 800 civilians have been killed since April as the United States and the European Union beef up sanctions against Russia. In Syria, ripped apart by a three year war and counting, last week saw more than 1,700 people killed in their country making it one of the bloodiest weeks yet, reports the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch reported that the Syrian regime is using barrel bombs, something that the U.N. Security Council banned in February, in full force against civilians and in Aleppo the civilian population is bearing the brunt of these bombs. On Thursday, for the first time, the U.N. using nine trucks supplied shelter, food and water purification supplies upon entering Syria without the consent of thr regime which usually denied access. In Libya, heavy clashes between Islamist militants and government forces wreaked havoc on civilian populations. On Monday, Islamist led militants took a special forces base in Benghazi and local medical workers said 75 bodies were recover from the area, while the U.S.Canadian and French embassies among other were evacuated from the country this week and foreign nationals were told to leave immediately. On Sunday, Tripoli’s airport lay in ruins as a rocket fired near the airport prompted a massive blaze that has burned for days eating through millions of gallons of scarce oil reserves. The Los Angeles Times reported the countries oil productions dropped by 20 percent since the fighting broke out. In Iraq, militants from the Islamic State destroy half a dozen holy sites in Mosul, has taken over a large piece of the country in June with the aim of creating its own Islamic caliphate and claimed responsibility for killing dozens of people in recent bombings. On Friday, the United Nations said more than 1,700 people were killed in Iraq in July. In Afghanistan, civilians in the Helmand province celebrated Eid al-Fitr in fear due to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces continued. Since the 2001 U.S. led invasion in Afghanistan, 2,197 soldiers have been killed. Meanwhile in Nigeria, more than a dozen people were killed and injured in Tuesday’s mosques explosions with many blaming Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group seeking to impose Shariah law, for carrying out the bomb attacks. Multiple female suicide bombers this week, suspected of working for Boko Haram, have killed dozens as well with the Nigerian government announcing on Thursday that two men belonging to the group were traveling with a10 year old girl with explosives strapped to her chest. And in the Central African Republic, Christians and Muslim militias signed a fragile ceasefire last week after violence killed thousands and uprooted millions since late 2012. In Southern Sudan, planned peace talks have been delayed this week between warring parties and the civil war has killed 10,000 people since December with one third of the population risking starvation. On Friday, the Associated Press reported, Obama, Putin Discuss Ukraine Crisis, President Barack Obama, on Friday via phone, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Russia’s support of separatists in Ukraine and Russia complying with a 1987 nuclear missile treaty that the U.S. says Moscow breached. The same day, the White said Vice President Joe Biden called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to announced $8 million in new assistance to Ukraine to improve border security including transportation, small boats and better surveillance equipment, but does not including armaments.

What does the Future Hold for Israeli-Palestinian Relations and for Ukrainian-Russian-U.S. Relations?

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The United Nations and United States announced a 72 hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning Friday morning with no guarantees the lull in violence will bring an end to the 24 day Gaza War according to Secretary of State John Kerry, Ian Deitch and Ibrahim Barzak report, US, UN announce deal on Gaza cease-fire. The announcement happened hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas tunnels with or without a ceasefire and the Palestinian death toll reached 1,400. Kerry said, “This is not a time for congratulations or joy or anything except a serious determination – a focus by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead. This is a respite. It is a moment of opportunity, not an end.” At least four humanitarian ceasefires have been announced during the conflict and all have been broken by renewed fighting. A statement by Kerry and U.N. assures both parties agreed, which Hamas leaders and Israel confirmed, to the unconditional ceasefire and would send delegates to Cairo for negotiations to reach a lasting truce. During the ceasefire Kerry said Israel will continue to destroy Hamas tunnels that are behind its territorial lines and Palestine will receive food, medicine and humanitarian assistance, bury their dead, treat the wounded and travel to their homes. In addition, repairs will be made to water and energy systems. Kerry said, “Israel has to live without terror and tunnels and rockets and sirens going on through the day. Palestinians have to be able to live freely and share in the rest of the world and live a life that is different from the one they have long suffered.” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the ceasefire was a result of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s trip to the region “but also 48 hours of extremely active diplomacy at all levels from the secretary-general to his senior advisers talking to key regional players.”

Unfortunately, the ceasefire did not last long as Israel and Hamas accused each other of violating the truce that resulted in four Palestinians being killed in heavy fire in the southern town of Rafah, Ibrahim Barzak and Daniel Estrin report, 4 Palestinians killed after Gaza truce begins. Two hours after the ceasefire went into effect, Israeli tanks shelled the eastern part of Rafah killing four people and wounding 15, according Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra and Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji. In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office explained, “Once again, Hamas and the terror organizations in Gaza have blatantly broken the cease-fire to which they committed, this time before the American Secretary of State and the U.N. Secretary General.” Reuters reports, Gaza Death Toll Soars As Israel Presses Offensive, Gaza health officials said 19 Palestinians were killed in Israeli assaults on Thursday, while Israeli military said more than 60 rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave into Israel with one person being wounded by the Gaza projectile striking Kiryat Gat, a southern town. Washington has allowed Israel to use local U.S. arms stockpiles in the past few weeks to replenish grenades and mortar rounds, a U.S. defense official said Thursday. On India’s NDTV, Kerry said during an interview: “No country can sit there and live with tunnels being dug under its border, out of which jump people who are carrying handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs in order to kidnap their citizens and hold them for ransom.” Reuters reports: “Gaza officials say at least 1,410 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the battered territory and nearly 7,000 wounded. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza clashes and more than 400 wounded. Three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling in Israel.” On Thursday, the United Nation’s senior human rights official, Navi Pillay, said that Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals, and U.N. premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions. The assault on residential areas by Israel has lead to mass evacuations and more than 200,000 displaced Palestinians in a population of just 1.8 million in Gaza leaving the infrastructure ruined with power and water outages. Diplomacy to end the conflict is complicated due to the fact Israel and the United States shun Hamas as a terrorist groups, while the go betweens of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey disagree on Gaza policy.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, a top U.N. envoy told the United Nationals Security Council that Israel will be required under international law to take responsibility for helping Palestinian civilians if more large scale displacements take place in Gaza, Michelle Nichols reports, UN Envoy: Israel May Be Required To Take Responsibility For Displaced In Gaza. The United Nations struggles to cope with a flood of 220,000 Palestinian civilians into shelters to due to the fighting and have come under fire during the three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Pierre Krähenbühl, the Swiss-born chief of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), via phone told the 15 member Security Council: “Should further large-scale displacement indeed occur, the occupying power, according to international humanitarian law, will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people. With as many as 2,500 displaced people residing in (each U.N.) school and an average of 80 people to a classroom, we have exceeded the tolerable limits we can accommodate.” U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council via video link: “The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe. We have all watched in horror the desperation of children, of civilians as they have come under attack.” After meeting behind closed doors for four hours after the briefing, Nichols reports, the Security Council once again called for an “immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.”

In Ukraine, a team of international investigators reached the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 site Friday to begin combing for evidence in the area now designated a crime scene while fighting continued less than 20 kilometers from the site, the Associated Press reports, Ukrainian troops suffer heavy loss in ambush. Despite both sides in the ongoing conflict in east Ukraine agreeing to a ceasefire around the crash zone, a deadly attack by rebels on government troops Friday morning took place less than 20 kilometers south of the crash site in Shakhtarsk, a rebel stronghold where sustained battles over several days has taken place. The town links Donetsk and Luhansk, two large rebel controlled cities, which Ukrainian forces are focusing on in their strategy to drive a wedge into the area. Mstyslav Chernov reports, Ukraine MH17 Wreckage Site Finally Accessed By Investigators, two investigators from the Netherlands and Australia made an initial survey of the crash area after lunch, while fighting raged on between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels with mortar shells falling in a nearby village. Despite the dangers, the team called the one hour inspection a success. Ukrainian President Petro Proshenko’s office urged rebels to comply with the ceasefire 20 kilometers around the wreckage site in a statement, while the European Union and U.S. formed a united front in accusing Russia of ramping up the unrest in eastern Ukraine by supplying weapons to rebels which Russia denies. In Brussels, the EU formally adopted economic sanctions, which will take effect Friday, designed to pressure Russia to bring a peaceful end to the Ukraine crisis.

Meanwhile, Russia is dealing with another old but familiar problem of what to do with former NSA contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden who received temporary asylum a year ago, which expired Thursday, following disclosure of classified NSA documents, according to an AOL report, As asylum expires, Snowden’s expulsion from Russia unlikely. Snowden has submitted his request for an extension of his asylum. While he waits, Snowden has a job and is learning Russian which are two requirements for an extension to be granted, Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian lawyer, explained. Another member of his legal team has this to say on Australian radio (From ABC Australia): “PM with Mark Colvin”: “For now he is in the safest place that he can be, and Russia has indicated that it intends to plan on having him, allowing him to continue to stay.” This was said in response to the German justice minister’s suggestion to turn him over to the U.S. to face prosecution. Journalist Glenn Greenwald explained to MSNBC why Russia took Snowden in and why they did not turn him over this past year: “There’s no legal basis to turn him over to the U.S. because the U.S. and the Russians don’t have an extradition treaty. … And secondly, that he faces persecution.” Euronews points out Snowden has asked for amnesty from prosecution if he ends up stateside and told Brian Williams in an Exclusive NBC interview that he would like to go home. Right now though, Snowden faces espionage charges in the U.S. that could lead to prison time. Snowden’s Russian attorney said the decision on his asylum could be made this week.

Flight 17 Possible War Crimes Amid Intensified Fighting in Ukraine, While Israel Strains Its Relationships with Allies

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Officials on Monday in Eastern Ukraine said at least eight civilians have been killed by fighting and shelling in two Ukrainian cities held by pro-Russian militants. Peter Leonard reports, Death toll mounts as clashes intensify in Ukraine, authorities in Luhansk that five people were killed and 15 injured by artillery strikes overnight, while three were killed in Donetsk as a result of clashes, according to the city’s government. The territory between the cities has seen intense fighting as government troops try to regain control of the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was show down earlier this month. On Monday morning, Dutch and Australian police set off fir the crash site in a convoy of 20 cars to secure the areas so investigations can continue and recover bodies. Both sides have accused each other regarding the rising civilian death toll, while the armed conflict has displaced more than 200,000 people over more than three months. Rebels accuse government troops of deploying artillery against residential areas, meanwhile authorities complain insurgents use apartment blocks as firing positions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expecting OSCE observers to arrive at the Russian Ukrainian border in the coming days and prove that rebels traveling freely into Ukraine from Russia is false. Ukrainian officials said the mission is largely pointless since only two dozen observers monitor the 1,240 mile border between the two countries.

The fighting in Eastern Ukraine, while serious and concerning, has taken a back burner to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and the possibility, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, of war crime charges. John Heilprin reports, UN rights chief: Flight 17 possible war crime, Pillay, the U.N’s top human right official, wants a thorough investigation into the violation of international law when the flight was shot down with a surface to air missile over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatist on July 17 that killed all 298 on board. At the same time, a new report by her office says that at least 1,129 people have been killed and 3,442 wounded in Ukraine’s fighting as of Saturday and more than 100,000 have fled the violence since April. She said, “This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime. It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event.” Fighting over the weekend prevented the Dutch and Australian police officers from visiting the crash site to search for bodies and evidence. The report by the U.N.’steam of 39 field monitors in Ukraine says there has been an alarming buildup of heavy weaponry in civilians areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. The report says an attack could amount to violations of international humanitarian law. Gianni Magazzeni, head of the U.N. office’s branch that oversees Ukraine, told reporters in Geneva: “There is an increase in the use of heavy weaponry in areas that are basically surrounded by public buildings. All international law needs to be applied and fully respected.” Peter Leonard reports, Police team turns back from Ukraine crash site, Ukraine accused rebels of tampering with evidence at the crash site and are trying to cover up their role in bringing the Malaysia Airlines jet down with anti-aircraft missile. On Monday, Ukrainian security spokesman that data recovered from the flight recorders shows the plane crashed due to a massive, explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel. The data recorders were sent to experts in Britain for examination, while Russia and Ukraine trade accusations and the death toll rises.

While tensions rises between Ukraine and Russia, Israel continues to strain its relationships with the rest of the world especially the United States as it tries to mediate an end to the three week old war in Gaza. On Monday, as tensions rise between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Washington over U.S. mediation of the situation, an Israeli official was quotes as saying Israel sees no need for another Gaza ceasefire, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams report U.S. – Israeli Tensions Rise Over Gaza Conflict. Fighting has quieted over the weekend as Hamas endorsed a U.N. call for a 24 halt ahead of Monday’s Eid al-Fitr festival. However, Israel abandoned an offer to extend a 12 hour truce from Saturday after Palestinian rocket launched persisted. In the early hours of Monday, Netanyahu’s security cabinet met to debate whether to escalate the Gaza offensive that has killed 1,100 people. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited last week to try and halt the violence with assistance from contacts with Hamas facilitated by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. U.S. President Barack Obama via phone on Sunday talked with Netanyahu about Israel holding fire unconditionally and appeared to link its core demand to disarm Hamas and destroy infiltration tunnels to a peace accord with the Palestinians that is nowhere on the diplomatic horizon. The White said: “The President stressed the U.S. view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.” Israel radio quoted an unidentified government official saying: “There is no need for any more ceasefires. Let Hamas stop firing first.” On Sunday, Netanyahu told CNN: “I think you can’t get social and economic relief for the people of Gaza without having an assured demilitarization.” A poll published by Israel’s Channel 10 on Sunday said 87 percent of respondents wanted Israel to continue until Hamas was toppled, while another poll, published in the Jerusalem Post found 86.5 percent of Israel’s majority Jews oppose calling a truce while rocket fire continues and Gaza retains any cross border tunnels. On Monday, Karin Laub and Tia Goldenberg report, Strike hits Gaza park, killing at least 10, a strike on a Gaza park killed 10 people including nine being children as Israeli and Palestinian authorities blamed each other over the attack and fighting in the Gaza war raging on despite a major Muslim holiday. The United Nations called for an immediate ceasefire in fighting that has killed 1,040 Palestinians, 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the Israeli side. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, according to his office, in which Netanyahu voiced his dismay at the announcement saying: “It does not include a response to Israel’s security needs and the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.”